July 22, 2024


General For All

Automotive Lobbying Profile • OpenSecrets


The financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 had a devastating effect on the United States economy, with the automotive industry hit particularly hard. Although the industry had been in financial trouble for years, the recession made a bad situation much worse.

But as it did for the banking industry, the federal government came to this industry’s rescue.

Two of the “Big Three” automakers, General Motors and Chrysler, received billions of dollars in federal bailout money. They also benefited from government financing schemes, expedited bankruptcy proceedings and partial government ownership. In GM’s case, the U.S. government remained majority owner into 2010.

Despite going through bankruptcy and receiving taxpayer bailout money, GM and Chrysler continued to spend big money on lobbying in the years after the recession. Though GM never matched its pre-recession peak (2007 when they spent $14.28 million on lobbying), Chrysler reached its own high-water mark a few years after, spending $5.67 million in 2012. Together, the two companies spent over $9 million lobbying in 2018.

Political spending from auto manufacturers peaked in the 2016 election cycle when the industry spent $40.5 million. Since the 1990 election cycle, automakers have favored Republicans with their spending, supporting the GOP roughly three-quarters of the time

Manufacturers are not the only big spenders when it comes to the automotive industry. Auto dealers are also major players. In 2016, the National Auto Dealers Association contributed $3.5 million to federal-level candidates and committees, favoring Republicans 68 percent of the time.

In spite of President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to promote domestic auto manufacturers and prevent further outsourcing, General Motors announced plans to close plants and cut jobs in Ohio, Michigan and Maryland in late 2018. Ford has also said it intends to reduce its staff.

— Will Lennon

Updated December 2018

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